LEXINGTON, Okla. - A boy's homecoming became a community event after he was gone for half of his life. At 11 years old, Jhett Skaggs' story has made national news; he's become a young golf sensation, and he's now had his second heart transplant, but for him none of it has been as sweet as coming home.
On Tuesday, a police escort from Purcell was picked up by one in Lexington with Jhett's family in tow. The streets were lined with balloons, messages welcomed Jhett home, and people from the area came into town for his arrival. He and his father were moving home from Houston six years after they left.
"It was really amazing and cool," Jhett said.
It was the first time in six years Jhett had laid eyes on his home, all because of his family's devotion to his health.
At 10 months old, Jhett required what would be the first of multiple heart transplants. Then, already at 5 years old, he was back on the transplant list. It was sooner than his family anticipated.
"We always knew in the back of our minds that that was going to happen," Jhett's father, Brian, said. "We didn’t figure it would be that quickly."
The two of them moved to Houston near Texas Children's Hospital to be at-the-ready when a heart became available.
"With that being his second heart, you`ve got other things to deal with," Brian said. "He`s already got a foreign thing in his body so it does take a little longer due to antibodies and whatnot."
So they knew the wait would take longer than the typical six to eight months. However, no one anticipated they would be gone for six years.
"I just missed not a lot of people being around," Jhett said, "and having everyone that you know being close."
Jhett kept his spirits high on the golf course, becoming a competitive golfer in Texas.
"It was outside, and that`s how I made most of my friends," Jhett said.
"That really probably kept us both from going crazy being locked up in a rubber room," Brian said.
Then a call just after 3:15 a.m. in July. His doctors confident a heart was ready.
"[They] said they couldn’t have asked for a better heart," Brian said.
The two were shocked to finally get the call, and Brian said he was scared to death for the massive surgery his son would undergo again. But after a few days, his fear was put to rest, replaced with relief.
Now three months after the surgery, the two got to come home and the town met them with open arms.
"This homecoming is extremely important for simple fact that a lot of people don’t leave Houston with a very good outcome," Brian said. "So to be fortunate enough to leave the hospital, number one, and number two, to come back home as a complete group and family, you can’t write a better book."
Jhett will need a new heart in about 10 to 15 years, and his family has hopes it will be easier the next time around.
In the meantime, Jhett has aspirations for a PGA tour, not to mention returning to school hopefully next school year. With all the excitement, he didn't have to think twice about his favorite part of the journey.